Meet Tony Sheldon: ALP national president hopeful. If Tony Sheldon, the union heavy at the centre of the Qantas fracas, is elected ALP national president next month he won’t be, as Tony Abbott claims, “Julia Gillard’s boss”. But he will have an important role to play in the debate over reform to the party’s internal structures. So who is he and what does he stand for?

Sheldon is national secretary of the 90,000-strong Transport Workers Union which represents air freight workers, baggage handlers, couriers, and truck and bus drivers. It’s not one of the most powerful unions federally, but in NSW it is a real force. The TWU and its state branch have donated a whopping $1.46 million to the NSW ALP since 2000, making it one of the party’s biggest donors. The union, aligned to the NSW Labor Right, controls 40 out of 350 votes at state conference.

Sheldon is highly likely to nab one the three national presidency spots given he’s the Right’s most experienced and well-connected candidate (the other right-winger in the race is Canberra MP Gai Brodtmann). He’s particularly close to NSW General Secretary Sam Dastyari, whom he backed for the job, and has been close allies with embattled Health Services Union supremo Michael Williamson.

But his high-profile role in the grounding of the Qantas fleet could count against him. Abbott has already accused Gillard of being too slow to intervene in the dispute because she is beholden to the union movement. If Sheldon is elected Labor’s national president it could lead to some tricky conflict of interest questions down the track and reinforce Abbott’s argument that the unions hold too much sway in the ALP. — Matthew Knott (read the full story here)

Deal with it, Sydney: more transport inaction ahead. Anyone hoping for a quick fix to Sydney’s transport mess will be disappointed by yesterday’s report into electricity privatisation. Retired judge Brian Tamberlin, QC, has told Barry O’Farrell it’s the premier’s job, not his, to decide whether or not to raise $30 billion by selling the state’s power network.

And, since tough decisions aren’t Bazza’s strong suit — and privatisation would be politically unpopular — The Power Index is predicting another few years of inaction. Here’s why it matters. — Paul Barry (read the full story here)

Peter Fray

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